Hope in the Judgment

Who can stand against the Judgment of God?  No one.  The nations of Israel and Judah learned this the hard way.  The northern kingdom, Israel, had 19 kings who were all fundamentally evil and turned the country farther and farther from God.  One of them, King Ahab, was perhaps the worst Israelite King of all and the one that Elisha and Elijah prophesied against.  In 722 B.C (200 years after the kingdoms split), a nation called Assyria came and destroyed the northern kingdom.  The ten tribes that made up this nation have been fully absorbed into Assyria and later Babylon, who would take of Assyria in 612 B.C.

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, had twenty kings, who had a roller coaster experience with good and bad kings.  Eventually, the evil lifestyle would lead them so far away that God would bring exile judgment to them as well.  Babylon would overtake Assyria and continue to march toward Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.  In 586 B.C. (136 years after the fall of Israel), Babylon would sack Jerusalem, taking the southern kingdom’s inhabitants into captivity.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”  No one will escape the judgment of God.  All we can do is make preparation for it by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  By doing so, we come under Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

Not Even Shaken

All of Psalm 125 focuses on the believer’s protection that comes from the Lord.  Those that trust in the Lord will be rewarded with rest and peace.  Those who do not trust in the Lord will not find the rest and peace that their souls long after.  An interesting phrase from Psalm 125:1 states believers will be as Mount Zion.  It goes on to say that Zion cannot be removed, or as other translations put it as, “shaken.”

Psalm 125:1

They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.

What is Zion?  And, why would we want to be like it?  First, it is mentioned over 150 times in Bible and is used to describe both the City of David (Jerusalem) and the city of God (Heaven).  The Hebrew word for Zion is, צִיּוֹן (Tsiyown), and it means a protected monument.

For us, it talks about the stability that God gives us, the peace that comes from being in God, and the need for our Christian testimony to shine brightly in this world.  Zion reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 8:31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”  Trusting in the Lord, places us in Him, who is our refuge, our fortress, our Zion.

Psalm 100

Without equal, God is good to us.  Against the backdrop of pain and strife, God’s goodness shines out.  Hearts filled with ungratefulness would be filled with gratitude in only a few moments if we focused our energy on contemplating the mercies and blessings of God on us.  We would serve the Lord with gladness and thankfulness.  We ought to serve the Lord with joy in our heart because He has called us to serve Him and not another lesser being.  The Lord is good.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Spiritual Gifts and Love

In our world, love has been so romanticized that we do not recognize the power of it in the biblical testimony.  Such scriptures as Paul’s chapter on love has been secularized with the world’s understanding and is seen on greeting cards and even recited by individuals at weddings.  Pauls love chapter to the Corinthians though is very similar to that of John’s letters on the love of God.  There is no love like the love of God.

LOVE IS THE MOTIVE BEHIND SPIRITUAL GIFTS (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

Compassion for the souls of men is a quality of love that makes it entirely different.  It is the motive that drives us to see people saved even when our efforts are rejected.  It does not matter how many languages we “speak” (vs. 1) if we do not have love.  It does not matter what gifts we have and to what degree for if we do not have love we are “nothing.” (vs. 2).  It does not matter how much “goods” (vs. 3) we give to charities if we do not have love.  We may feel that we are doing good and have love but the love of God is entirely different.  It is a self-sacrificing and giving love that does not seek anything in return.

THE QUALITIES OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love coming from God through the believer is filled with great qualities.  The first is that love is not prideful or seeks self-gain and interest.  It is not “puffed up” (vs. 4).  The Corinthian church was divided because of pride issues.  Pride is a sign that God’s love is not in somone.  It does not keep a record of wrongs against it and thinks “no evil” (vs. 5) toward another person.

Love in the believers also has a steadfast endurance about it.  Love has to be tough and does not condone sin but endures towards “truth” (vs. 6).  No one is worth the abandonment of truth and love would not seek to avoid the truth.  In doing so, it bears long with hard individuals and endures through “all things” (vs. 7).  We hold our love ones accountable to the truth because love compels us to desire their walk in the truth.

THE ENDURANCE OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Except for love all other gifts will “vanish away” (vs. 8). The Corinthians boasted in their spiritual gifts of tongues, knowledge, and prophecy.  After the resurrection of our bodies love will continue while the other gifts lose their purpose and fade from out of view.  The gifts spoken of in chapter 12 are only useful in the current world.  Paul will focus on knowledge and prophesy and their fading away as prime examples.

This is because we can only know in “part” (vs. 9).  How many times do we see that even in preaching and teaching, there comes points of confusion and misunderstanding?  We are limited in these capacities.  Yes, when the “perfect” (vs. 10) is come (heaven and bodies) we shall know in full and have no reason to prophesy.

In our understanding now compared to that which shall come to our thinking is that of a “child” (vs. 11).  When we are perfected in eternity, we will put away our childish thinking.  Ancient mirrors were made of metal and did not provide a clear reflection.  At the end of time, our incomplete understanding will be rid of flawed thinking, and we will see clearly the things that God gave to us.

Other motivators that help us is faith and hope along with love.  Faith will end once we move from the unseen things to the seen realities of heaven.  Hope will end when what we hoped for is experienced.  Love, on the other hand, will still exist.  The love of God we have in us is not only for this world but the world to come.  Love is the “greatest” (vs. 13).

The Body of Christ

When a person receives a cut or grows feverish in one part of the body the rest of the body will share nutrients to that area for healing.  Likewise, it seems that as parts flourish and are strengthened the remaining parts are also strengthened.  The church is living organism and it is made up of many individuals and local congregations.  Christ is the head, and the Spirit gives us life.

DIVERSITY OF THE BODY (I Corinthians 12:14-17)

The church is made up by many “members” (vs. 14).  Not one person can claim to be the entire church within themselves.  It is a community that bears the likeness to that of a body of Christ.  The body is made up of many systems, organs, and cells.  Diversity is within the church as numerous as the parts of the body.  Therefore it is impossible to state that members of the church that have different gifts and skills are “not of the body” (vs. 15, 16).  If we were only an ear, we would not be a full body.  If the church had only feet, then we would not be a “whole body” (vs. 17).  There has to be diversity in the body.  Diversity comes from our gifts, our cultures, ethnicities and ever our preferences.

UNITY OF THE BODY (1 Corinthians 12:18-26).

God’s will, Christ’s atonement, and the indwelling Holy Spirit all create a bond within the body that is unquestionably diverse.  God has “set the members” (vs. 18) throughout the body of Christ in the world and across time to grow His church.  We cannot be one part, or else there won’t be “the body” (vs. 19) because we cannot deny the vastness of its members but in the multitude the church is “one body” (vs. 20).

It is also impossible to say that different people and churches are more important than others.  There is no way that one could say they have “no need” (vs. 21, 22) of another.  We may place greater value on certain offices in the church and gift sets, but God has given the less desirable “abundant” (vs. 23) usefulness.  This is how God has “tempered” (vs. 24) or put together the body.  To be equally useful and needed throughout the whole church.  Church splits and fights between members over usefulness creates “schism” (vs. 25) or tears apart the body.  We must get along together because the body is designed to take care of itself through the membership.

The Spirit indwelling in each member connects believers together not only to the body as an organization but as a having their feelings and emotions together.  The church body is not just a corporation (like a business) but truly a corporal (as in corpse or flesh).  We feel the pains of other believers that “suffer” (vs. 26) just as real as the joys of those that are celebrated.

A BODY BUILT TO GROW TOGETHER (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

It is clear that we are just as much a full body as we are “particular” (vs. 27) or individual members.  We do have a personal relationship with Christ but in the same mind bring our gifts, not our advancement but to the church as a whole.  No person exists solely for themselves but for the benefit of others.  This is why God has given so many offices within “the church” (vs. 28).  Through others, we can grow as a body.

We do not have to look very far to see that there are many different ministries in the church.  This naturally happens because not all are preachers and teachers.  Not all are “teachers (vs. 29) or speak in “tongues” (vs. 30).  Diversity is key to growth but so is working together towards unity.  We may seek to be loners that have many gifts and are not for our talent the “more excellent way” (vs. 31) is unity.

So Many Gifts

Our society idolizes individuals of great talent and skills.  They are placed on a pedestal because of the achievement they have and even more so if they do it alone.  Even in professional team sports, the spotlight is one the individuals who stand out from the team.  While their giftedness may be in greater portions, they are for themselves and not the team.  Gifts are to be shared and not be hoarded.

THE GREATEST GIFT (I Corinthians 12:1-3).

Knowing your spiritual gifts has been a big topic for many Christians.  Through spiritual gift inventory quizzes and other methods, they have tried to identify their God-given gifts.  The scriptures teach us that we do not have to “ignorant” (vs. 1) concerning spiritual gifts of others and ourselves.  Unlike the Corinthians previous religious affiliation with “dumb” (vs. 2, meaning unable to speak) idols they and we alike serve a God who spoke the Word and revealed His will to each of us through it.

Before we can search for Spiritual gifts, we must be reminded of the greatest gift of God.  That is the faith to cry out that “Jesus is the Lord” (vs. 3) made possible only by the Holy Spirit.  We are not saved by our own doing but by grace as a gift from God (cf. Eph. 2:8).

SPIRITUAL GIFTS HAVE PURPOSE (I Cor. 12:4-7).

There are many “diversities of gifts” (vs. 4), but the Holy Spirit is the giver of them all.  Paul will share nine distinct Spiritual gifts in three different areas.  What we learn is that these form a base from which our talents and skills are used for God.  All that we do then rests on God and His activity through our lives.  Though there are different “administrations (vs. 5) and “operations” (vs. 6) we find that God is the same.  As a musician plays multiple instruments, we hear the skill of the same musician but each instrument makes a unique sound.

People mostly want to know their spiritual gifts for self-fulfillment.  The gifts of the Spirit are not for personal purposes.  They are for the whole body of believers.  “Every man (vs. 7) is apparently given a gift (we can seek more vs. 30-31), and it is for the building of God’s kingdom and promoting the gospel.

A DIVERSITY OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS (I Cor. 12:8-11).

The Spiritual gifts are divided into categories of the mind, body and spirit, and mouth.  The gifts that deal with the mind are wisdom and knowledge.  They deal with “the word” (vs. 8) or the revelation of God more commonly called the Bible.  Wisdom is the application of the Word in daily life and knowledge is the understanding of Scriptural truths.

The second area concerning the body and spirit are wrapped up in the gifts of “faith” and “healing” (vs. 9).  It is interesting that faith is not only a gift but also a fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). All believers have faith, but there are those who seem to have considerably more.  Healing (which takes faith) is very needed in our society today.  Not just for the physically sick and hurt but for the emotional, mental, and spiritual suffering of people today.

Lastly, there are the gifts that come through the mouth.  Prophecy, the gifts of tongues, and interpretation are easier to understand, as gifts of the mouth but “miracles” (I Cor. 12:10) on the other hand, is harder to make sense in why it is included in this last group.  The miracles, we are taught, were evidence that the words were right (cf. 2:4)

Such diversity of gifts is grounded in unity by the “Spirit” (vs. 11) who gives as He wills.

Work Together

What examples have others given to you in your life?  Who taught you how to live by the way they lived their life?  We can have many philosophies taught to us in lectures but the strongest lessons come through the examples others leave.  We can learn what to imitate and what not to do in our lives from the lives of those around us.

REJOICE OVER OTHERS BLESSINGS (III John 1-4).

John writes to a friend by the name of Gaius.  This could be a friend that Paul refers to by the same name in Romans 16:23.  Whoever it is they are respected by John and loved “in the truth” (III John 1).  We may love others immensely but never should we do so at the expense of truth.  We may pray for others to have financial and physical blessings but to pray for their “soul” (vs. 2) to prosper, is the greatest need they have.  We would should greater love for others in encouraging their spiritual work.

John rejoiced at the news of Gaius and those with him walking “in the truth” (vs. 3).  For John, there was “no greater joy” (vs. 4).  The most excellent news that we can receive is about a person coming to faith and those committing to continue to walk in the faith.  We should celebrate the moments of conversion and spiritual growth.

RECEIVING OTHER WORKERS (III John 5-8).

We know that as we live in this world, we are not to be so sheltered that our in our daily life we never cross paths with unbelievers.  It may be tempting to treat believers and unbelievers differently by how we help, but we are too consistent in our treatment of the “brethren, and to strangers” (vs. 5).  Believers and unbelievers both will tell others of how we treat them.  If we help them in their life and bring them closer to God “thou shalt do well” (vs. 6).  We become examples to follow for Christ.  Others will follow in suit “for his name’s sake” (vs. 7) because we led them toward it.

In doing so with the brethren, we become “fellow helpers” (vs. 8).  In contrast to those that would receive and bless deceivers (II John 10-11) we promote the gospel and blessings, it brings into people’s lives. We are workers for God and co-workers with all believers empowered by the Holy Spirit.

EXAMPLES OF GOOD AND BAD WORKERS (III John 9-14).

Everybody teaches something.  We are all examples of things to be imitated or not to be.  John gave to his readers the example of a man that loved having “preeminence” (vs. 9) or feeling superior to all other ministers.  This man would tear down others to make himself look better and would not “receive the brethren” (vs. 10).  We have seen the countless times of people who attack other well-doing people of God to make themselves look smarter, better, and bigger than what they are.  John warns to not follow or imitate “that which is evil” (vs. 11) because they are not of God.

We do have good examples of people who have lived for God. Not only do they have the testimony within themselves of being a good worker but have “good report of all men” (vs. 12).  There are individuals that had the heart for God that we would do well in imitating their actions.  Demetrius did not have many instances of his life given, but from the subject matter, it can be understood that he worked well with others.  He received others to work with him.

John again has much to “write” (vs. 13) but chooses not to.  To drive home this letter about receiving co-workers joyfully, he desires “face to face” (vs. 14).  He also wants the community of believers to be so close that they go “by name.”